Spillway scored a narrow win over Extra Zero in the 2015 Australian Cup to deliver David Hayes and Tom Dabernig a Group 1 quinella at Flemington this afternoon.
Spillway hit the front at the 300 metre mark and locked as though he was going to romp away to a dominant victory, but Extra Zero stormed home to get within a whisker of a massive upset win.
Jockey Michael Walker was given a spray by Hayes earlier in the day when he pushed the button on Air Apparent too early in the Group 3 Breeders Stakes (1100m), but the talented hoop produced a strong ride on Spillway to claim his first Group 1 victory in Australia since he took out the 2004 Brisbane Cup with Danestorm.
An excited Walker was clearly delighted to have recorded his first Group 1 win in his adopted hometown of Melbourne and was quick to pay credit to the training performance of David Hayes and Tom Dabernig.
“I wanted that one bad, I really wanted that one bad,” Walker said after the race.
“I just wanted to repay David and Tom and all the owners and all the staff for all the trust that they put in me.
“I had the most economical run in the race and I didn’t let him go until about 250 out and then I saw the stablemate, but I am wrapped and I dedicate that one to my kids back home.”
David Hayes has won 78 Group 1 races during his training career, but until this afternoon had experienced a lengthy drought at the highest level of racing and had not taken out a Group 1 event since Eagle Falls won the 2011 edition of the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m).
Extra Zero went into the race at the lengthy Australian Cup odds of $101 and was not expected to be a factor in the finish, but Hayes was thrilled to see the veteran gelding produced a strong performance and admitted that he thought he had upset his stablemate.
“Old Extra nearly upset the apple cart,” Hayes said.
“He was bought for the Darwin Cup and he missed out on that because of the tragedy, but he nearly won this race.
“It was the most pleasant photo that I have been involved in for a while.
“I actually thought Extra Zero won and I was wrong again.”
Spillway has been a consistent performer at the highest level of racing since he made his Australian racing debut a year ago and he had performed well in races like the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) without breaking through for a Group 1 win.
Hayes was confident that Spillway was a genuine winning chance in the Australia Cup and he was thrilled that the imported galloper was able to finally breakthrough for a big race win.
“He (Spillway) has been running thirds and fourths all the time and I thought knocking on the door,” Hayes said.
“I just asked Michael to make him arrive inside the clock tower and he did and he was good enough to hang on.
“He gave all the good horses a start and a beating, so full credit to them both actually.”
Happy Trails hit the line strongly to finish third and The Cleaner hung on bravely to finish a gallant fourth, but 2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist produced another flat performance and he was never able to get into the race.